Aston Martin Valkyrie to race at Le Mans in 2023? You heard it here first

Le Mans News

Aston Martin was going to fight for overall Le Mans victory with its Valkyrie hypercar, then cancelled its plans. But Andrew Frankel is hearing (and seeing) that the project may well be back on for 2023

ston Martin Valkyrie on production line

The Aston Martin Valkyrie production line is running: will a Le Mans Hypercar be next out of the factory?

Aston Martin

After last year’s dress rehearsal, the 2022 edition of Le Mans was hoped to mark the true start of the hypercar era. But with Peugeot still unconfirmed and looking increasingly likely to defer their entry into the World Endurance Championship until later in the season, all eyes are now on 2023. And with reason. In one of other of the top two categories will come factory teams from, wait for it, Ferrari, Porsche, Audi, Peugeot, BMW, Cadillac, Honda, Toyota, Alpine, Glickenhaus and… wait once more and with fingers only slightly crossed, Aston Martin.

Yes, the big surprise from Thursday’s launch of Aston Martin’s new AMR22 Formula 1 car came not from the build hall where the car was introduced to the press, friends, family and people who work for the team, but upstairs in an office where I asked executive chairman Lawrence Stroll if he had plans to take Aston Martin sports car racing again. His reply was bigger and better than I could have possibly hoped, and had it not also been deemed off the record would have represented something of a scoop for me.

But let us say for now and as a result of that conversation, I know that Aston Martin is looking very seriously at a return to the place where it has enjoyed more success than any other, including that solitary outright win back in 1959. And were I a betting man, I’d bet plenty on it being there with everyone else on next year’s grid and with the Valkyrie hypercar that, let’s not forget, was always designed with racing at Le Mans in mind until the previous administration lost either the interest or the means to pursue it.

Aston Martin Valkyrie at Le Mans illustration

In 2019, Aston Martin announced its plans to race the Valkyrie at Le Mans but paused the programme a year later

Aston Martin

So book your campsite early, because it seems that what was already looking like the most competitive Le Mans in history (can anyone else remember a time when ten factory teams fought for outright victory?) is now likely to have a British dimension added, and we have observed before, the Brits like Le Mans like no other country, possibly including France.

Who will drive? I’d say Nico Hülkenberg, probably the best ‘spare’ driver any team could wish for, was a certainty given his ‘played one, won one’ record in the race. And what about Sebastian Vettel? He’s expressed interest in the race in the past and described what Hulkenberg did as ‘an incredible achievement’ not least, one presumes, because he did it while also a full time F1 driver. So for Sebastian participating in one discipline may not preclude taking part in the other. Two Astons, driver teams led by Nico and Seb. Now that would be something.

Nico Hulkenberg 2022 Aston Martin

Hülkenberg steps up to help Team Silverstone once more

Sebastian Vettel 2022 Aston MArtin

...and Vettel for the Valkyrie in 2023?

But that is not the extent of Stroll’s ambitions. Possibly not before time he is also planning Aston’s first one make race series. This is a lucrative business to be in, which is why most of its rivals, including Porsche, Lamborghini, Ferrari and McLaren have had their series, or multiples thereof, for a while now. The Aston series won’t happen for a while though, because Stroll wants it based on Aston’s now unnamed standard production mid-engined street car which probably won’t go on sale until 2024.

If you need a refresh, Aston Martin’s former management led by Andy Palmer regarded it as essential that the company became a player in the mid-engined field because that’s where all the money in the super luxury sports car market lies: just ask Ferrari, Lamborghini or McLaren. And sound business sense that makes. But it had no track record and feared not being taken seriously, so steps were taken to establish its credentials: hence the deal for Red Bull to carry the Aston wings, hence the Valkyrie, hence its scarcely less mad Valhalla successor, all building toward the car that actually matters.

From the archive

Palmer called it Vanquish in line with a naming strategy for its flagship supercar that dates back over 20 years, but Stroll doesn’t like it, so the name’s been binned. He reckons he has 18 months to think of a new one, and it will be interesting to see if he stays with the ‘V’ tradition, a letter that was first used on an Aston in 1951 when it offered a high compression, large carb option on the DB2 and called the engine specification (not the car) ‘Vantage’. Whatever it is called, it is this car whose rivals today would include the Lamborghini Huracan, Ferrari F8 Tributo and McLaren 720S upon which the one-make racer will be built.

Later on I was given a guided tour of Valkyrie production by CEO Tobias Moers, who arrived at the company long after its design had been set in stone. ‘There has never been a car like this before,’ he pronounced, and then with a wry smile which spoke more than words ever could, he said, ‘and there will never be another like it again.’ From which I inferred that not only did it present a whole new level of performance, but also infernal complexity. And remember Moers is the man who, in his previous job as the head of Mercedes-AMG led the development of its Project One hypercar, which has been even more delayed than the Valkyrie.

Aston Martin Valkyrie chassis and engine

A Le Mans Hypercar under the skin? Valkyrie on the production line

Aston Martin

If you want to understand just how obsessively this car has been designed consider this: it just so happens that below a certain size the threads of screws and bolts are lighter when made to an imperial measurement, above that metric weighs less. So every single threaded component on the Valkyrie is chosen accordingly. I asked Moers how much weight was saved over the entire car to which he shrugged and said, ’ten grammes. At most.’

So the car is a nightmare to produce, but being produced it is. I saw at least a dozen in varying stages of undress, which rather confounds those who said it would never happen. The extraordinary thing about it is that when you see it in bare carbon fibre, without doors, screens or bodywork, but just a tub with an engine and suspension bolted to it, it looks just like a Le Mans prototype. Hopefully at Le Mans next year, we’ll find out why.